It’s good to be the King!

James W. Parker - Booth Ann Arbor State St. 2009

James W. Parker - Booth Ann Arbor State St. 2009

As many of you may have heard already, I was the honored recipient of the Best of Show / 2D Award at the recent Ann Arbor State Street art festival. Competing with painters, printmakers, and some other fine photographers, I was surprised to learn that I had won early on Thursday morning. Kathy Krick, the show’s director, stopped by with her entourage to present me with a nicely framed award, a director’s chair and a healthy honorarium. And to top it off, I was also featured on the noon news, in a brief interview with Val Clark of local Channel 7, the ABC affiliate. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

The work I hung for the State Street show was a bit different than my colorful Southwestern imagery. I decided at the last minute to show my “Disappearing Agrarian Landscape” photographs, which are all sepia-toned. Interest in the work was high. I spoke with all three judges, who spent time discussing technique and subject with me: a refreshing change from the drive-by judging so prevalent at most shows. Likewise, many patrons enjoyed the images, and a few of the pieces traveled to new homes. I did hedge my bets, though, by including my color work in the bins.

For me, one of the fun parts of winning this award was the director’s chair. I offered to take a photograph of anyone who was willing to pose in the chair, and captured a few patrons and artists alike. Since it’s Ann Arbor, we get to see a lot of our show friends, including Steve and Anita Baldauf (our very first art show friends!); Marc Zoschke and Wendy Baxter, of Vetro Caldo, showing their beautiful dichroic glass jewelry; Antoni Koslowski, who sent over some friends to model his amber jewelry; Steve Potts, woodturner; Steve Daniel and Jasper, showing his new tree frog series (way cool); and Jeff Lewis, of Lewis Creek Instruments; Angie and Doug Dresie; and Suzanne “Q” Evon, two other terrific jewelers. Karyn was in heaven, but conflicted about which artist’s jewelry to wear on which day. Many compliments later, I discovered that it was good to be the king.

(Click on a thumbnail to see a larger image).

The show was blessed by decent weather this year. Normally, there’s at least one microburst followed by hot, humid weather, followed by rain, followed by high winds. This year there was none of that. It was mostly mild, and nobody lost an EZ-UP. Will wonders never cease? Crowds seemed somewhat lethargic, however, at least at my end of the show at William and Thompson. Granted, my spot is a bit out of the way, but it’s quiet, and frankly, it’s easy to get to. Sales for me were about the same as they always are, and many previous customers stopped by during the four day event. It was fun, and exhausting.

For more pictures of the folks enjoying “king for a day”, read on

America Creates

America Creates - a new site for artists, craftspeople and patrons of the arts

America Creates - a new site for artists, craftspeople and patrons of the arts

Two refugees from the corporate world have started up America Creates, a new artists site with some interesting features.  The website is unique for a number of reasons, and stands out among the crowd of wannabe art destination sites. For starters, its creators, Sharon Sinclair and Larry Hitchcock both have extensive creative backgrounds. Larry worked as Creative Director at Disney for years, and was a veteran of rock concert staging before that. Sharon, his partner also has a background in stage design and interior design. Together, they share a love for handmade objects and American craft. 

But the site is more than a pretty storefront. They’ve thoughtfully included whole sections on resources for the creative community, forums, blogs and even a way for artists to post video of themselves working in the studio. In their own words:

America Creates is an Internet business that connects American artisans with a local, regional, national and worldwide markets.

America Creates is a showplace for creative goods and services produced by independent American artists and artisans.

America Creates raises awareness of the people, places and events that support creativity in their own communities.

America Creates fosters the education of future generations with learning experiences in the classroom and apprentice programs with local artists and artisans.

America Creates revitalizes the concept of community, inviting all to participate.

The site is still in its infancy, and is looking for talented artists to participate. It is a juried site, so you must go through a vetting process before you are allowed to post work. For more information on how to join America Creates as an artist, click here. If you don’t already have a website, or ecommerce abilities on your current site, this is a terrific opportunity. Joining the site as an artist or crafter is free, but America Creates takes a 25% on any sales made through the site. There is no charge for listing items, unlike Etsy, so limited editions or multiple sizes or colors is not an issue. Creating variations on a single piece is still a bit kludgy, though, as there’s no way to add your own attributes if the pre-filled ones don’t cut it for you.

But there’s more to America Creates than just a store front. Larry and Sharon hope to enable the site as an information hub for events; creative services; guilds and co-ops, galleries, museums and art centers; art schools and associations, and any other resource that you can think of. Listings are free, and it’s a great way to promote your artistic endeavors to a broad audience. The concept of making it an art-based community is unique and sets it apart from sites that are mainly designed to sell. 

Larry and Sharon have recently hired a SEM (Search Engine Marketing) firm to help get the word out. They have ambitious plans for publicity, and the practical experience to make this a great place to find information on anything art related. Their goal is give artists the best marketing tool they ever had, but they need you and your work to make it wonderful.

Friends and family

One of the coolest things about being an artist on the show circuit is getting together with art show friends. Here at the Naples show, it’s like old home week! After setting up and reading through the booth packet, we started seeing names of people we haven’t seen since last year in Florida. We knew that our good friends Steve and Anita Baldauf would be here as well as Jackie and Randy Kuntz. Randy is a talented glass artist from our neck of the woods (Toledo Ohio) and the Baldaufs are from Orlando. Steve and Anita also brought their son Austin, who has great artistic skills even at his tender age of 14 to do all the heavy lifting. Forgot to mention Loel Martin — another photog from Chicago are — he was at the St. Stephens show last weekend.
We also ran into Vonnie and Tom Whitworth, whom we hadn’t seen since ArtiGras last year; Larry and Pam Smith from Atlanta and Larry Humphrey, a long-time photographer friend from Florida. Jon Ellis, relatively new to the show grind, was here too — what a sense of humor! It shows in his paintings, which are droll, finely detailed illustrations of human foibles. Vonnie also was an illustrator in a former life, and her work has a beautiful presence that has to be seen in person to appreciate. Larry and Pam were showing off new work in a looser palette-knife style, and their spiffy new Dodge Sprinter van. He’s also got a spiffy new studio at their home in Atlanta — I am very jealous about that! I’ll post about my studio when I get home next week. Beth Crowder, who does whimsical pastel paintings, was also here, and we reminisced about last year’s Ann Arbor show, in which she very nearly ended up in Kansas. She said you could see her booth flying away on YouTube. Greg Barnes, another pastelist who was our neighbor at Ann Arbor last summer, was also in attendance. Jon and Cris Walton were here, showing some of Jon’s new water drop photographs as well as his cheerful florals.

New to the Naples show this year was a VIP artists reception on the patio of the very elegant von Liebeg Art Center. The show’s co-director, Marianne Megela, spent time talking with us about the changes in the show — all of them good. Marianne has been rushing around the past three days with no sleep, solving all of the artist’s problems — relocating a booth here, finding parking for that trailer, making sure everyone was happy. What a terrific attitude she has! Tom Taylor, the director, greeted everyone and made sure that the wine glasses stayed full. They know how artists love food and wine, especially if it’s free!

Shows are not all about making sales — far from it. Here in Naples, we had the most fun we’ve had in three weeks. For us, this show is a lot like a family reunion — a chance to reconnect and compare notes on shows done, and shows planned; to talk about new work and new directions; and to just have a good time sharing a little fellowship. In that kind of atmosphere, I get refreshed and stay happy, which in turn reflects in my work.